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Category Archives: Threats to the South Shore

Letter to Wynne Regarding Turbines & World Wildlife Fund

Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy

P. O. Box 147

Milford, ON

K0K 2P0

October 7, 2014

Premier Kathleen Wynne Gord Miller

Legislative Building Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

Queen’s Park 1075 Bay St

Toronto, ON Ste. 605

M7A 1A1 Toronto, ON

Toronto, ON M5S 2B1

M5G 2K1

(Sent via e-mail. Hard copy to follow.)

Dear Premier Wynne and Mr. Miller:

Re: wpd White Pines wind development, endangered species and World Wildlife Fund

This letter is public and may be shared.

We are writing to request your assistance in improving governmental process for renewable energy projects. Ontario’s guidelines for siting renewable energy projects are not aligned with policies of respected organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or even with Environment Canada policies. Ontario’s standards and practices do not reflect global concern for wildlife in general and for species at risk in particular.

As you may be aware WWF has just released a new report on the state of the earth’s wildlife populations. According to WWF:

This latest edition of the Living Planet Report is not for the faint-hearted. One key point that jumps out is that the Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has declined by 52 per cent since 1970.

Put another way, in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half. These are the living forms that constitute the fabric of the ecosystems which sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to our own planet, our only home. We ignore their decline at our peril.

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/

In addition WWF states in its new report regarding population decline:

TERRESTRIAL LPI – living planet index

The terrestrial LPI contains population trends for 1,562 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians from a wide range of habitats. The index shows that terrestrial populations have been declining since 1970 (Figure 12) – a trend that currently shows no sign of slowing down or being reversed. On average, in 2010 – the year for which the most recent comprehensive dataset is available – terrestrial species had declined by 39 per cent. The loss of habitat to make way for human land use – particularly for agriculture, urban development and energy production – continues to be a major threat to the terrestrial environment.

http://www.wwf_lpr2014_low_res_for_web_1%20(2).pdf

It is expected that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change could issue a renewable energy approval for wpd’s White Pines Wind Project. This project is a prime example of how Ontario’s guidelines for renewable energy projects are not working.

Twelve of the project’s turbines are in the globally-significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA) and eight turbines are just outside its boundary. Five turbines are in very close proximity to a National Wildlife Area which was chosen because of its density and diversity of birds. In total, some 298 species of birds have been recorded with about 220 species being recorded during the average year. Most of these species are recorded during migration although at least 74 species nest within the area.

Wpd’s tweny-nine turbines are placed in the direct path of a major flyway that has the highest fall migration numbers of saw-whet owls in North America and the fourth highest migration numbers for raptors. This flyway receives large numbers of endangered Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons. The passing of a large percentage of the Golden Eagles that reside in North America through a project of this size will imperil this population as well as other populations of migrating species of birds and bats.

The wind project is located in Blanding’s turtle habitat which includes the Ostrander Point Crown Land Block. As you may know in 2013 an Environmental Review Tribunal revoked the renewable energy approval for Ostrander on the grounds that the wind project would cause serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtles.

The wind project study area includes the Provincially Significant South Bay Coastal Wetland, 231 hectares in size, noted for supporting Blanding’s turtle as well as 17 wetlands (unevaluated by MNR) that are considered ‘significant’. 9 of these 17 wetlands qualify under the definition of Coastal Wetlands.

The White Pines Wind Project is a prime example of how proper siting of projects should be the first consideration. The document “Wind Turbines and Birds: A Guidance Document for Environmental Assessment, Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service” lists 11 criteria for locations where turbines should not be sited. The south shore of Prince Edward County meets all of these criteria:

  • The presence of a bird species listed as “at risk” by the SARA, COSEWIC or

 

provincial/territorial threat ranking, or the presence of the residence(s) of individuals of that

species if listed under the SARA, or of its critical habitat. To be of concern, either the bird or

its residence or critical habitat must be considered to be potentially affected by the project;

  • Site is in an Important Bird Area;
  • Site is adjacent to a National Wildlife Area;
  • Site of fall migration of large concentrations of raptors;
  • Site is on a known migration corridor;
  • Site contains shoreline on a peninsula;
  • Site will disrupt large contiguous wetland habitat;
  • Site located close to significant migration staging area for waterfowl;
  • Site contains species of high conservation concern, eg. Aerial flight displays, PIF/CWS

priority species;

  • Site is recognized as provincially important alvar habitat type;
  • Site is adjacent to a heronry.

Environment Canada: Wind Turbines and Birds V. 8.2, p.21, 2007

The WWF POSITION ON WIND POWER 2004 states:

On the planning process for the development of wind power WWF believes that:

  • The development of wind farms should be managed sensitively and framed within regional and local spatial planning guidelines. This should include development of national, regional and local wind targets, assessing high value habitats and identifying no-go areas for wind development. In this way, any environmental impacts and conflicts with other land or marine uses would be identified and minimised.
  • Proposals for wind farm developments within IUCN 1-2 protected areas and/or national parks should not be allowed, unless a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) clearly indicates that the proposed development will not cause adverse effects on the integrity or conservation objectives of statutory protected area.

 

  • Wind turbines can have a possible impact upon wildlife if sited in the wrong place and as such should not be placed in important bird nesting grounds or within identified bird migration routes, such as RAMSAR sites.

We acknowledge that there is an appeal process for Renewable Energy Approvals. However at the present time it appears futile to appeal a renewable energy approval on the grounds of serious and irreversible harm to plant and animal life or to the natural environment. The 2013 Divisional Court decision revoking the decision of the Ostrander Point Environmental Review Tribunal has ruled that the finding of irreversible harm cannot be made without population data. At the recent appeal for the Bow Lake Wind Project the Tribunal noted that:

[215] The impact of this approach is that irreversible harm cannot be shown for the numerous species of plants and animals in Ontario for which the current state of the science is such that population numbers are not well enough known for an “order of magnitude” to be calculated. Given that the finding of serious and irreversible harm is a threshold finding under the EPA, in that the Tribunal may not make any remedial order unless it is met, these species appear to be left without protection under the appeal provisions of s. 145.2.1 of the EPA. The Tribunal notes that the MNR Bird and Bat Guidelines, as well as the Alberta Guidelines referenced by the Appellant in this case, recognize the current limitations of scientific knowledge and as a result take a more flexible, contextual approach to determining harm. However,the Divisional Court ruling in Ostrander is currently the law in Ontario and is binding on the Tribunal.

Environmental Review Tribunal case Nos.: 13-145/13-146 Fata v. Director, Ministry of the Environment

The Divisional Court declared not only that population data is needed in order to make a finding of irreversible harm but that the onus is on appellants to provide this data. The Divisional Court decision has been appealed but if the decision is allowed to stand the onus will be on members of the public and small unfunded conservation groups to collect and provide population data.

It would take several years of scientific study to acquire population data on species on Prince Edward County’s south shore. The studies would have to be done however, because the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry does not possess any data on local plant and animal populations.

For the reasons identified it would be futile to appeal a renewable energy approval at this time.

The Environmental Review Tribunal process was the last line of defense for species that might be seriously harmed by renewable energy projects. This line of defense is broken. The government’s own Tribunal acknowledges that “species appear to be left without protection under the appeal provisions of s. 145.2.1 of the Environmental Protection Act.”

Clear policies are urgently needed in order to ensure the protection of species and the habitat that is required for these species to carry out their life processes.

With this in mind and understanding the government of Ontario’s desire to appear protective of the environment, the Conservancy respectfully requests that:

  • no new renewable energy generation approvals be issued until the Ontario Court of Appeal issues a decision on the Ostrander appeal. This request seems reasonable as the Tribunal is currently prevented from making a finding of irreversible harm at this time even if it believes that the project will cause irreversible harm;
  • renewable energy project developers be required to provide population data and/or that resources be provided to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry or to Nature Canada to conduct studies on population if the Ostrander appeal is allowed to stand; and
  • a review of current provincial practices and policies on renewable energy generation projects be conducted using WWF and EC siting recommendations as good practice standards.

 

We appreciate your attention to these important matters and look forward to receiving a response.

Respectfully,

Paula Peel

Secretary, South Shore Conservancy

  cc:

Hon Glen Murray, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

Hon Bill Mauro, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

André Marin, Ombudsman of Ontario

The Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy is a volunteer organization committed to protecting the flora, fauna and habitats encompassed by the South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA). The IBA includes species at risk, both breeding and migratory. It was founded in 2001.

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Letter to Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

Letter written by County resident and business owner Carlyn Moulton, addressed to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, with copies to Dalton McGuinty, Jim Bradley (Minister of the Environment), Todd Smith and Peter Kent (federal Minister of the Environment.

December 22, 2012

Dear Commissioner,

It beggars belief that in the name of being “green”, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has approved the destruction of the southeastern portion of Prince Edward County for a wind turbine project known as Ostrander Point. Virtually every environmental group in the country has made detailed submissions pointing out that this is the worst possible location that could be imagined. It is an Important Bird Area, a critical migratory flight path and breeding habitat for millions of birds, many endangered. It would qualify as an ANSI, or area of natural and scientific interest, because of its unique features.

Then to add insult to injury, in a cynical and grinch-like act that can only be seen as calculated and manipulative,  the announcement is made on December the 20th, allowing 15 days for the public to comment or appeal. If the current government had any interest in participatory democracy, it would have picked another date. As this is not the first time  that this has been done (as you yourself have pointed out), we have to assume that this wasn’t merely inept or absent-minded ignorance of the calendar and holiday season, but a willful thumbing of the nose to those that might wish to spend the holidays with their children as opposed to with their lawyers.

 The effects on the natural environment are not restricted to the Ostrander Point wind project and its nine turbines – wind projects are planned or proposed on many sites along the north shore of Lake Ontario at the eastern end. What is the cumulative effect of these projects? They can’t just be considered one by one.  The following table of projects and turbines lists those along the shore or in the water of eastern Lake Ontario.  Most would be located within or adjacent to Important Bird Areas. (In Prince Edward County four other projects, totalling 47 turbines, are also proposed and awaiting ECTs.)

              Wind Project                    Status  No. Of Turbines
Ostrander Point OPA Contract                9
White Pines OPA Contract         29-30
Amherst Island OPA Contract         30-35
Ernestown OPA contract             4-6
Wolfe Island Operating              86
Loyalist I and II Awaiting ECT              21
White Pines II Proposed              36
Dorland Proposed on Gilead website         20-40
Wolfe Island Shoals Subject to offshore moratorium       60-150
Trillium I and II Subject to offshore moratorium            282
Total of land-based Turbines      199-227
Total of all proposed Turbines        541-659

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s impossible to conclude that such numbers would not be an obstacle to migrating birds or a transformation of the natural environment.

Prince Edward County is also well known for organic vegetable farms, wineries and other farms. Wind turbines cause a shift in air pressure that collapse bat lungs and kills them. Bats eat insects. Insects eat fruit and vegetables. Without bats, insect populations increase significantly, and therefore, so does pesticide use. This is not rocket science. So why would we, in the name of the environment, allow for an industrial development that is surely to trigger a rise in pesticide use?

One can only imagine that there must be some sort of staggering electrical power shortage, plunging us all into the dark without this sort of destructive and permanently damaging project – which must surely save us all?

Except of course, we have a surplus of power. Ontario is a net exporter of power and has been for years. http://www.sygration.com/gendata/today.html  publishes our surplus on a daily basis. Today, as I write, we have a “capacity” of almost double our current need. And it is a surplus that far exceeds our current use of coal – so that is a red herring.

And if we needed more, Quebec seems to be awash in cheap, renewable, hydro power. Maybe they might sell us some for a fraction of the price that we will end up paying to Gilead Power while they destroy Ostrander Point.

It hardly seems that we have a crisis of such a magnitude that we are compelled to give up public lands that are magnificent, unique, and critical to sustaining the natural environment to a private company who will reap a handsome profit from its destruction, and reaping artificially high rates, guaranteed by our government (but paid for by the people) for years to come.  

This project is unnecessary, irresponsible, and against the interests of the public good and the environment.

The government’s stubborn pursuit of a wrong-headed policy, despite all evidence to the contrary, is damaging the very communities it is meant to protect and represent. 

If the government was serious about reducing carbon emissions, making sure a serious public transit system was implemented around the GTA or along the 401 would seem to me to be a much better investment. Most of Ontario’s emissions aren’t from energy generation, they are from transportation – as anyone who took a day to inform themselves would know.

Sincerely,

Carlyn Moulton

Open Letter to Jim Bradley, Minister of the Environment

The Ministry of Environment’s decision not to conduct an Individual Environmental Assessment of access roads at Ostrander Point, announced in your December 19, 2012 letter, is based on numerous errors in fact and judgment.   

Your letter states that between March and April 2011 you received 21 requests from members of the public.  In point of fact, the Honourable John Wilkinson, then Minister of Environment (MOE), received the requests.  In the last election Mr. Wilkinson was held accountable for his mishandling of the MOE portfolio.  

Only 17 of the 21 requests came from members of the public.  The other four requests were from organizations which collectively represent thousands of citizens.  Why does your letter diminish the significance of comments by the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County; the South Shore Conservancy; Friends of Arron Lake, Wind Concerns Ontario Grey Bruce; and the Prince Edward Field Naturalists, Ontario Nature and Nature Canada? 

All the requests point out the extensive impact of the access roads: 

  •  fragmentation of wildlife habitat by the loop design
  • destruction/loss of alvar and woodland habitat
  • disturbance of avian and terrestrial wildlife during wind turbine construction and during the next 25 years of operation due to increased on-site human activities
  • harm, harassment and killing of two threatened species, Whip-poor-will and Blanding’s Turtle, albeit authorized by a Ministry of Natural Resources permit
  • disturbance to raptors, especially protected Bald and Golden Eagles.

Since access roads are integral to the wind energy project, they cannot be separated in terms of effects.  Both roads and wind turbines are located on a major migration corridor used by millions of birds, bats and butterflies.  Both roads and wind turbines will destroy rare habitat that sustains migrating and resident wildlife, particularly 20 species of conservation concern, including Rusty Blackbird, Short-Eared Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Red-headed Woodpecker, and the Monarch Butterfly. 

Thousands of eagles, owls and other raptors have already perished in North America as a result of colliding with massive turbine towers and blades at poorly-sited wind projects.  The raptors and migratory birds that avoid wind turbines are also at risk as they disperse to inhospitable outlying areas without adequate food, water and shelter.  

Bats in the thousands are also dying, either from direct collision with turbine blades or as their lungs explode from rapid changes in air pressure when they get close to turbines.

In approving the Ostrander Point project the government of Ontario is contravening international treaties such as the Migratory Birds Act and the treaty to protect Monarch Butterflies.  National and international environmental societies, too numerous to mention, have all told the Ontario government that industrial wind turbines should not go into this Important Bird Area (IBA).  Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner has called for a halt to wind projects in all Ontario IBAs.  The Canadian Senate has called for a moratorium on industrial wind projects along the migratory route.

Mr. Bradley, anyone who had actually read the 21 requests for an Individual Environmental Assessment would be too embarrassed to say, as you did in your letter, that you are “satisfied” the Ostrander Point project has met “the purpose of the Environmental Assessment Act, the betterment of the people of the whole or part of Ontario, by providing for the protection, conservation and wise management of the environment.”  

Perhaps you are satisfied, Mr. Bradley, but the people of Ontario are not.   

Garth Manning,
Chair, County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy

 

Wind Project Approval a Disgrace

WIND PROJECT APPROVAL A DISGRACE: RUNCIMAN

 

OTTAWA, Dec. 21, 2012 – Senator Bob Runciman has blasted the Ontario Ministry of Environment for its approval of a wind energy project at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County.

 “This decision goes against local wishes, it threatens migratory birds and bats and it makes no sense from an energy standpoint,” Runciman said. “And to grant approval just before Christmas is clearly an attempt to avoid scrutiny. It’s not only wrong-headed, it’s under-handed.”

 On late Thursday afternoon, the Ministry of Environment announced it had approved Gilead Power’s proposal to erect nine giant wind turbines in an internationally recognized Important Bird Area at Ostrander Point. The approval gives Gilead permission to kill endangered species and destroy their habitat.

 Runciman was the author of a 2011 motion unanimously endorsed by the Senate of Canada calling on the province of Ontario to institute a moratorium on wind-farm development along eastern Lake Ontario until the impact on birds and bats can be studied.

 The Ontario senator’s concern stems from the experience with the wind farm on Wolfe Island, also in a designated Important Bird Area. That development has a kill rate for birds and bats that is seven times the industry average in Canada, primarily because it is located in the wrong spot. It is one of the deadliest wind farms in North America.

 The same concerns apply to Ostrander Point, which has been described by Environment Canada as one of the best areas for birds in southern Ontario, Runciman said.

 “The governing Liberals are in the late stages of a leadership campaign. The incoming premier may very well reconsider this failed policy – a policy that has alienated rural Ontario, bypasses environmental and land use policies, will cost electricity customers billions and is causing grave damage to the Ontario economy,” Runciman said.

 “In light of this, it is an absolute disgrace that the Ministry has approved this project right now. I call on the government to step in and put a stop to this,” Runciman said.

 For more information, please contact:

Barry Raison, Office of Senator Bob Runciman

(613) 943-4020 (office) or (613) 297-2069 (cell)

raisob@sen.parl.gc.ca

Birds and Bats Need More Protection from Wind Power

Toronto, October 2, 2012 – The Ontario government should put additional areas of the province off-limits to wind power projects to safeguard birds, bats and their habitats, says Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller, who released Part 2 of his 2011/2012 Annual Report, Losing Our Touch, today.

“I fully support wind power. Together with energy conservation, renewable sources of energy such as wind are necessary to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and protect the environment,” says Miller.  “However, the use of wind power must be balanced by the equally important goal of protecting birds and bats. To accomplish that goal, we need to be smarter about where we place wind power facilities.”

The government has released guidelines for evaluating and reducing harmful effects on birds, bats and their habitats during the planning, construction and operation of wind power projects. The Environmental Commissioner praises the government for giving special attention to birds and bats as wind power development increases in the province, but notes “there are some significant shortcomings in the guidelines that continue to put birds and bats at risk.”

  • Lack of protection for migratory bat species: Approximately 75 per cent of documented bat fatalities at wind turbines in North America are migratory bats, yet the provincial guidelines lack any criteria for identifying and avoiding bat migratory stopover areas during the selection of wind power sites.  Three out of the eight species of Ontario’s bats are migratory.
  • Development in Important Bird Areas not prohibited: Important Bird Areas are designated, using internationally accepted standards, as key areas supporting specific groups of birds. There are no special rules to prevent wind power development in Ontario’s 70 Important Bird Areas.
  • No consideration of cumulative effects: Wind power project sites are evaluated and approved on an individual basis, with no regard for the potential cumulative effects on birds or bats from other nearby wind power facilities or other potential sources of bird and bat mortality.

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner says “I am concerned that the current guidelines do not go far enough to ensure that wind power development is compatible with Ontarians’ objective of protecting wildlife. Given the importance of selecting sites that minimize the harm to birds and bats, it just makes sense to avoid building wind energy projects in these species’ most ecologically sensitive locations.”

“The Ministry of Natural Resources should rectify these shortcomings,” says Miller “and prohibit new wind power development within Ontario’s Important Bird Areas.”  Important Bird Areas, such as Point Pelee and the Leslie St. Spit, cover only about two per cent of Ontario in total.

Additional Protection for Ontario Wildlife Habitat & Threatened Species

Posted on

Strict new definitions for “significant wildlife habitat” will offer more protection for Ontario wildlife.

According to journalist Tom Spears in the Ottawa Citizen, “protected sites could demand special treatment (such as not cutting trees or building roads) for hundreds of metres in all directions, up to a kilometre all around in the case of bat caves. They apply in urban and rural development alike.

Spears goes on to state: The Ministry of Natural Resources says it will not be applying the new definitions to existing properties or small residential projects. They will be “only considered as a result of a development application” and applied during an environmental impact study.

“Therefore Significant Wildlife Habitat is typically only determined when a subdivision, commercial development, golf course, aggregate operation, wind farm, and large solar project is proposed in an area that may be changing the existing land use,” the ministry wrote in a reply to questions.

 They are in addition to existing protection for significant wetlands, or areas with rare or threatened species such as butternut trees or bobolinks.
 
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources says the changes would apply to new developments such as subdivisions, commercial construction or wind turbines, not to smaller projects such as renovating a house.

Follow the link above to the Ottawa Citizen to read the entire article by Spears.

Wind turbine companies avoid calls from waterfowl expert

From an exclusive to Wind Concerns Ontario:

Scientist  and Executive Director of  Long Point Waterfowl, Dr. Scott Petrie, says that after years of trying to encourage the corporate wind power development industry to do the right thing to protect important bird habitats in Ontario, the companies are now not only refusing to cooperate, they’re not even returning his calls.

Dr. Petrie was particularly involved with AIM PowerGen prior to the Green Energy Act, providing advice on industrial wind turbine (IWT) placement at the company’s project at Long Point. “At first, they were very cooperative,” he says, “even moving some turbine locations when they heard my concerns. But then along came the Green Energy Act, the associated competition for business, and the completely inadequate guidelines to protect birds and bats. We have a completely different situation today.”

Scientist, university professor says: “some of the worst possible places for wind projects”

The situation, Petrie says, is that some areas where turbine developments are being constructed and planned are, as he says, “the worst possible places to put a wind power project.” He says that avian and bat mortality rates at improperly placed wind farms are unacceptable. He also says that wind turbine developers and the government have ignored the fact that there will be cumulative ecological impacts associated with placing thousands of wind turbines on the landscape and in the lakes. As a Waterfowl Ecologist, Petrie is particularly concerned that wind turbines are being placed within critically important habitats and on migratory routes with no regard for avian displacement. “When you place a turbine in or very close to critical habitats, and birds subsequently avoid those areas, it is tantamount to habitat loss, and we have already lost 85 per cent of our Great Lake’s coastal wetlands.”   

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